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International Church leaders Condemns Political Killings

by AJLPP-USA Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006 at 1:20 AM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angele< CA 90026

Condemnations as well as outrage over the unabated and rampant political killings in the Philippines is swelling in the international Christian community. More and more Protestant denominations have expressed alarm over the killings, with the Methodists issuing a statement calling on the US government to pressure Philippine President Arroyo's administration into decisive action. This came on the heels of the latest Amnesty International statement condemning the Arroyo government’s inaction and apparent crackdown of political dissent.

International Church leaders Condemns Political Killings

Manila-- Condemnations as well as outrage over the unabated and rampant political killings in the Philippines is swelling in the international Christian community.

More and more Protestant denominations have expressed alarm over the killings, with the Methodists issuing a statement calling on the US government to pressure Philippine President Arroyo's administration into decisive action. This came on the heels of the latest Amnesty International statement condemning the Arroyo government’s inaction and apparent crackdown of political dissent.

The US-based United Methodist Church said in a statement signed at a conference in North Carolina and addressed to the US and Philippine governments: We call upon the United States government to bring pressure to bear upon authorities in the Philippines to respect civil liberties and human rights and to enforce effective policing and the judicial process.”

In a separate statement, different church leaders representing denominations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America expressed "shock and dismay" over reports of the extrajudicial killings.

"Of particular concern are our sister and brother church workers who have been slain by death squads that seem connected to powerful economic, military and political interests in the country," the statement said.

The statement was signed by 17 church leaders and peace advocates representing the World Alliance of Reformed Church in South Korea, Lutheran World Federation in the United States and Switzerland, United Church of Canada, Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa, and World Council of Churches, as well as a Benedictine nun from St. Scholastica's College in Manila.

They noted that 18 church people had been killed in the last two years, 15 of whom were affiliated with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

In its statement, the United Methodist Church urged the Bush administration to "use its influence to prevent the imposition of martial rule or other severe means which would hinder democratic processes in addressing abuses."

"We wonder to what extent arms, ammunition, training, and encouragement given in our name and with our tax money are exacerbating this crisis," said the statement signed by R. Randy Day and James Winkler, the United Methodist Church's general secretaries for global ministries and church and society, respectively.

It called on the Arroyo administration to investigate such cases "immediately, seriously, and impartially."

It specifically appealed to the administration to "avoid labeling those working for economic justice, particularly among the poor, as 'subversives,'" and noted the "linkages between the current abuses and the police or the military."

The statement echoed the sentiments of some 60 former and current church workers in the Philippines.

Citing information from other Protestant denominations, the church workers said they had become "painfully aware of the extrajudicial killings, illegal detention and even torture of persons who have been critical of the government in its failure to address poverty, corruption, and the abuse of power."

Strong Indictment

" We wish to express our profound sympathy to the victims of these abuses and their families," they said, adding:

"We express our appreciation for the courageous Filipino church leaders who continue to speak prophetically to this tragic crisis at great personal risk.

We pledge to them our advocacy and our prayers."

As the hue and cry grew louder, the killing of leftist activists has continued without letup in Central Luzon, claiming three more lives since Tuesday, or one victim per day.

The rate has surpassed the record ratio of 1 victim per week since 2005, according to reports from news sources from the Philippines:

On Aug. 15, Sydney Santos, 30, of Barangay Iba Este in Calumpit, Bulacan, was shot dead.

The next day in nearby Barangay Sukol, village watchman and tricycle driver Danilo de Leon was killed. Six hours earlier, fisherfolk leader Orlando Rivera was shot dead in Obando, also in Bulacan.

Also on Aug. 16, in Barangay Culong in Guimba, Nueva Ecija, village councilor Julie Vasquez was gunned down as he attended a wake.

Santos, De Leon and Vasquez had one thing in common, according to Roman Polintan, chair of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Central Luzon. He said the military had suspected them of being supporters of the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

"More killings are happening as the retirement of [Maj. Gen. Jovito] Palparan draws near," Polintan said, referring to the military official whom militant activists had tagged "the butcher."

"Will we see 28 more killings up to Sept. 11?" he said, referring to Palparan's scheduled day of retirement, capping 33 years in the military.

86 killed in Central Luzon since 2005

The killings have brought to 86 the death toll in Central Luzon since 2005. In addition, more than 40 activists have been abducted and not seen again. In the case of Vasquez, he was killed right beside the detachment of the Army's 71st Infantry Battalion. Bayan's Polintan said no soldiers were in the detachment at the time.

Sought for comment on Vasquez's murder, Lt. Col. Gregory Cayetano, commander of the 71st IB, said the village councilor might have been killed to reinforce the "propaganda" on the cedula (community tax certificate) that Palparan had been requiring Nueva Ecija and Bulacan residents to present as ID.

Asked who could be behind the killing, Cayetano said: "No idea at this time."

In San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, where the ID system was said to be in full force, the military reported recovering a cache of firearms from the NPA in a raid in Villa Joson at 5 a.m. yesterday. The firearms, two hand grenades and two sacks of antigovernment documents reportedly belonged to one Leopoldo Calusa, secretary of the Nueva Ecija CPP committee's Front 1.

Also yesterday, the urban poor group Kadamay reported that the doors of the houses of its members in Balaba, Phase 2, Purok 32 in Barangay Dau in Mabalacat, Pampanga, had been marked "X" with red paint, allegedly by soldiers from the 69th IB. But Col. Ricardo Visaya, 69th IB commander, denied Kadamay's allegation.

Indict 'Gloria Arroyo as a War criminal'—BAYAN MUNA

In Manila, militant lawmakers are considering using the recent report of Amnesty International as a means to indict the President as a "war criminal" before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"Under international humanitarian law, Ms Arroyo should be called to account for, and not absolved of, allowing or at least tolerating the brutal attacks on civilians and noncombatants," said House Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna.

His fellow party-list lawmaker, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, said the President should be hailed to the ICC for genocide.

Mariano said Ms Arroyo was "very afraid" not only of losing the Philippines' membership in the United Nations' Human Rights Council, but also of "being indicted globally as a war criminal."

"These are the reasons why she doesn't want UN probe teams here," he said.

Ocampo urged foreign governments and international groups to impose economic and political sanctions on the Arroyo administration, citing how the President's allies had thrown out an impeachment complaint that sought to hold her liable for the political killings, among other crimes.

He said the Wednesday night vote was "a transparent attempt" by Ms Arroyo's partymates and allies in the House "to exonerate her for the murder of 727 activists and other civilians perceived as opponents of her regime."


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